It is a world where words no more mean what they mean in the ordinary sense .
Here , the addition of the meanings of words that make a phrase or clause rarely matters , as the fixed expression is accorded a new one that one just has to master accordingly .
The Cambridge Dictionary defines an idiom as a group of words in a fixed order that have a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of each word on its own .
This is why , in English language, the man beating about the bush is not the one wandering inside a forest , just as the one who has something up his sleeve is not the one hanging a tie around his neck .
I believe you know that, in the first instance , to beat about the bush means to perambulate , not going straight to the point , not hitting the nail upon its head.
On the other hand , having something up one’ s sleeve means to have a secret plan or an idea that one is going to use later .
Apart from the fact that you have to learn as many idioms as possible by heart , you have to pay attention to some that are often misused .
This can be in terms of attributing wrong meanings to them or using them out of contexts, or mixing up the words that make them up . What, for instance , is wrong with each of the following sentences ?
The rain wrecked havocs in the community on Friday.
Sidi is a green snake under the green grass . Beware of her .
“ More grease to your elbow , ” the manager told the security man who arrested the burglar .
Chief Ifeanyi did not win the election on a platter of gold .
If you are a regular member of this class , you shouldn ’ t have any problem resolving the riddle in each of the sentences .
We will hopefully come back to them , anyway .
At this junction, at this juncture
The phrase , ‘ at this junction ’ , exists in English .
After all – after all (two words), not afterall – one can say, I met the lady at this junction , to answer the question : where did you meet her ?
Unfortunately , this scenario makes many people injure a common idiom that means at this particular time or at this point in time or at this moment .
The correct idiom is at this juncture , not at this junction .
So , in the course of a programme or speech , when you need to introduce a particular issue, the right thing to say is at this juncture .
Masters of ceremonies (not ceremony ) particularly need to be careful here because many of them are prone to committing the error :
At this junction , I like to introduce some other dignitaries that have joined us . (Wrong )
At this juncture , I like to introduce some other dignitaries that have joined us . (Correct )
A clog in what?
Many people are likely to answer , A clog in the wheel of progress !
This is when they want to describe someone or something that constitutes an obstacle in the line of progress . While the sense is right , the idiom required has been bastardised.
The correct expression is a spanner in the works .
Note that a spanner in the wheel of progress is also not correct .
The simple and correct phrase is throw a spanner in the works .
Based on how he mishandled the letter from the governor’ s office , it is safe to say that he constitutes a clog in the wheel of progress of this organisation . (Wrong )
Based on how he mishandled the letter from the governor’ s office , it is safe to say that he threw a spanner in the works in this organisation . (Correct )
Crack your head ?
No. Please stop cracking your head. Remember that our heads are extremely important to our bodies . So , don’ t just crack them.
The Yoruba seem to appreciate the need for one not to protect this vital organ ; so they have a proverb that says , Eni ti a f’ ori re fo agbon , kii duro je nibe.
This means that the person on whose head a coconut is cracked does not live to have a taste of it .
So , I ask again : why must you crack your head because of another man ’ s language called English .
Well , lest I overstretch that joke , the point I am explaining is that when you mean that you have to think very hard perhaps to remember something , the right idiom is not crack my head .
It is not also crack my brain. Rather, it is rack my brains:
I had to crack my head before I could tell my friend the oba’ s name . (Wrong )
I had to rack my brains before I could tell my friend the oba’ s name . (
The pupil was still cracking her head when the time -keeper rang the bell during the debate. (Wrong )
The girl was still racking her brains when the time – keeper rang the bell during the debate. (Correct )
Back to green snake
Because we have treated each of the idioms involved in the four sentences above at one time or the other in this class , all I will do is provide the correct version of each of them :
The rain wreaked havoc in the community on Friday.
Sidi is a snake in the grass .
Beware of her .
“ More power to your elbow , ” the manager told the security man who arrested the burglar .
Chief Ifeanyi did not win the election on a silver platter.